The mobile battle lines are drawn


Dino Myers-Lamptey, Head of Strategy, the7stars

Long gone are the pronouncements of next year being “the year of Mobile”. Futurologist and media ninjas have become bored of being wrong, and journalists have given up taking anyone seriously who dares to start a sentence with that phrase. However there’s a lot of mobile ducks aligning that could suggest 2016 very well could be, the year.

Mobile Ad revenue will next year take over TV spend, mobile screens are getting bigger, the majority of consumers have smartphones and data is getting cheaper. In theory, the path for mobile should be clear and prosperous. Yet, it is as uncertain as ever.

Mobile is becoming a battleground of click-throughs, viewability and data. For Google, the attack is coming from all angles, firstly with Apple building in an ad blocker to iOS, and the likes of EE and O2 threatening to block at user level. Then there is the consumer shift to apps and different ways of searching. Not even Google Images is safe, with the likes of Pinterest launching search by image functionality, and with this their holy grail, Search, is threatened.

Pinterest is also gearing up to rival Google with a ‘Buy it’ button, a feature that allows a much more direct in-site purchase of a product, without any premium or commission taken by the site. We could wax lyrical for days about the threats to Google – it has plenty to contend with.

However, as the battle continues, one thing is clear – consumers are becoming increasingly addicted to their devices. Twitter found that we unlock our devices on average 150 times a day, and teenagers put mobile at the top of the list of the things they couldn’t spend a day without.

Still, while large audiences are a great indicator of importance, what mobile struggles to articulate is the effectiveness of the platform as an advertising channel. Yes, some formats are engaging but the real challenge is fulfilling our high expectations. Mobile may know where we are, how engaged we are and how we are using it, but there is still a wealth of unknowns.

Firstly there is a lack of cross channel conversion data. By this I mean apps that talk to the browser, that then pick up that user on the desktop, to then recognise when that mobile returns to a store (by GPS) and eventually buys (through Apple Pay). In theory we have all the data to know this, yet it sits in different silos, protected by the various battling armies of mobile.

But who is making moves to win the battle and use mobile even more effectively?

Facebook is making strong moves to firstly match the users across devices and channels, and with Instagram and WhatsApp in its battalion it is very well-placed to do so. Also hot off the press is its launch of Live Video, which is Facebook’s answer to the Periscopes and Meerkats of this world.

Twitter also deserves a mention. Its focus is firmly on being the network of now, or perhaps more specifically the ‘moments’. The new feature built into the platform finally brings curation and full screen video to localized, popular tweets.

Google and Apple almost seem too obvious to mention. Yes they are some of the biggest players, but having held top positions for so long, many advertisers will criticise their openness to data and sharing for the selfless benefit of the agency or client.

For mobile, the real selling point for advertisers is data. So when we look at it that way, my outside long-shot to really drive mobile forward would be…BT. Perhaps not an obvious choice, but if its ambitions to acquire one of the major networks (EE on last count) is fulfilled then it will be in the content game and on top of data across mobile, desktop and TV. If your mobile video consumption is anything like mine, then you’ll appreciate just how much you are willing to ‘pay the extra’ each month to get that precious content.

So obvious players like Google, Facebook and Twitter should watch out, BT may be coming to steal the mobile crown.


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